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Many skiings

The elevated avalanche risk and subsequent recent fatalities had made you extra cautions about visiting the mountains. Still, it was possible to go providing you took reasonable precations. Crosscountry skiing on the other hand was damn-safe.

Flumserberg Skiing Practice

During the previous week a plan had been formed to go ski-touring with Grég. Unluckily, the avalanche risk had become high enough to reconsider. Come Friday he made the call, and alternatives were sort over waffels at Kirsten's. You brain was just not working this week – it was odd. The waffels were good though.

On Saturday you joined Kirsten, Stefan, Steffen, Thomas and you lady-friend in Flumserberg for some regular downhill skiing. It had been about a year since you last skied down a prepared slope and you technique – which was otherwise magnificent, obviously... for an Australian – had suffered. It took a good hour to remember how skis worked, during which time you landed on your bum and hurt your back. You felt like an old man for the rest of the day.

The conditions weren't perfect. Fog was rolling over the mountain giving periods of whiteout blindness, followed by brief windy and cold (but clear) moments. The slopes weren't too full, lucky considering it wa a weekend on Zürich's home-slope.

The skiing express w. many wet helmets
The skiing express w. many wet helmets

The skiing day-pass price had gone up again. Such increases were a regular trend, but 74chf for a one-day pass in Laax seemed steep. At least there was enough snow now, unlike in December. Some skiing resorts had tried creative methods to cope with December's low snowfall. With only 20% of the lifts open there was a risk of overcrowding. Rather than just adjusting the price, they also sent letters to local residents asking them to stay home. Predictably, there was a backlash and other resorts began advertising "locals welcome". It was good to see that the Swiss have a sense of humor... or maybe just a good sense of commerce.

The skiing was fun. It was good to get back into the swing of it before taking on any challenging skitours. At some point in the afternoon your brain started working again and you were able to hold conversations. Odd. On the train ride home everyone stuffed their skis overhead and hung their helmets up to dry. Meike is convinced that helmets are an example of great marketing, but otherwise useless. The proof: Schumacher is still in a coma.

Sushi Date w. Movie

Last year you had been gifted a treasure chest full of present vouchers as a birthday present. Eight months after receiving the present you finally claimed another part of it: a movie date. Friday rolled around and you met up with your lady-friend in Zürich for some dinner and a flick.

There was a lot on your mind this week. For example, the Swiss National Bank had stopped fixing the Euro-Franc exchange rate and the value of your currency had skyrocketed by +20% overnight. The Swiss were going off: the speedy withdrawing Euro cash until machines were empty, while the steady planned holidays at tremendous discounts. You didn't really care so much since you had a steady job and no particular interest in the stock market, but there were other things going on. On Monday you had received an email from the head of Engineering (your n+3) requesting a little chat that particular Thursday morning. Meike had done her very best to worry you with: "they've finally noticed you never work!" To this day, she remains firmly convinced that you never work – only getting up in the morning to wave her goodbye, and then go back to bed. How cheeky.

Newsexpress... New Sex Press? This photo is unrelated
Newsexpress... New Sex Press? This photo is unrelated

Come Friday, you mulled over your little chat with a lovely sushi dinner date near Hardbrücke in Zürich. Sometime it's nice to treat yourself and, in this case, let someone else pay. The Imitation Game was showing at the movies. You enjoyed watching it. The seats were especially comfortable and the 10chf chocolate was especially tasty. As nice as everything was, you just couldn't bring yourself to set an alarm for Saturday morning, so the proposed ski touring was postponed to Sunday.

Stockberg Skitour

Switzerland is the pinnacle of public transport connectivity. Travelling to Stein in canton St. Gallen is the unfortunate exception, requiring five changes in two hours to travel only 50km. You get the feeling the farmers there prefer their isolation as a natural tourism deterrent. Stockberg was perhaps the only place safe to ski this weekend according to the SLF (Swiss Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research). Elsewhere was at level 4: gross (large), so off you both went to Stein.

Heading up Stockberg
Heading up Stockberg

You started trekking up some tracks left by other ski tourers, so the beginning was an easy warm up. Easy, in the sense you didn't need to think about you path so much. Soon you came to a road and decided to cut across to the tree-line. You cut new tracks through deep snow diagonally across the field. It was really fun flopping about with no idea what you were doing. You frequently lost your balance in soft snow and flailed about like an idiot, waving your poles to try and find your footing. Doing so had the additional benefit of warming your chilly fingers.

Back in the cut path, the trail remained steady for another hour. The weather was pendling back and forth between foggy snowfall to clear skies and the occasional ray of sunshine. Overall, the conditions were't optimal for touring since they were unpredictable. Arriving at the turn-off you decided to continue on towards the Stockberg summit.

At most, you only covered another thirty minutes more before giving up. On the ridge the wind picked up to a blustery gale, which froze your fingers to icicles. The fog had descended around you and visibility was a few meters at best. Unsure how the weather conditions would progress, you arrived at a small hut and decided to turn around. On the bright side, your new "winter touring backpack" was fantastic. There were separate compartments for snowy/wet things and the zips were really easy to open with gloves. You both rolled up your ski furs, locked in and headed back down the hill.

Removing furs and clipping in
Removing furs and clipping in

The snow on the run back down was amazing! It was a joy to float, albiet with little style, down the hill over the powder snow. The curves were smooth and the turns fluid. It was so much more fun skiing on soft virgin snow rather than on Flumserberg's ploughed pistes. If only you could look good doing it... On the way down you hit some retaining walls, wire fences and asphalt roads. It wasn't nice for your skis; Meike faux-cried about hurting her beautiful equipment. While you felt her pain, the equipment was meant to be used and one should be proud to wear something out from overuse, rather than neglect. The bus rolled up thirty seconds after you arrived at the bus stop below. How very convenient!

Crosscountry Skiing w. Parents

Meike's parents were coming to visit. They had brought their skis and a big box of books and games from Meike's old room in Berlin. It's nice when they visit for two reasons: they're quite easy to chat to, and they always leave subtle presents when they depart. For example: taking notice you didn't own a pizza cutter during a visit a few years ago, they secretly bought and left one in your kitchen drawer. A week after they left you were surprised to find a one had magically appeared. It's basically an easter egg hunt! Other examples include a new spatula, butter container, cloths stand and garden flowers. Its very kind. It's not entirely necessary, but it's very kind. It is amazing how often a pizza cutter can be used for things other than pizza: cutting toast, for example. Now, you can't live without one!

Saturday you drove to Bachtel for crosscountry skiing. You packed your new skating skis in the car with their classic skis, and drove off for an hour along windy roads. Today was the under-16's Swiss national cross-country biathlon championships. There were some tiny skiers skating around and shooting targets with laser guns – a safer alternative to bullets. They weren't using much of the area, and it was interesting to watch while taking breaks.

Swiss national under 16's cross-country championships
Swiss national under 16's cross-country championships

You skated two long trails over undulating hills and sharp bends. It was a lot of fun along such a variable course, but damn-hard going up the hills. You did about 15km in total – not especially much for cross-country but enough for one day. Back at the car some kids were having trouble crossing a snowbank. You wanted to throw snowballs at them, but thought better of it. When Meike's parents got stuck at the same place a few minutes later you had a similar thought.

Each evening you played through another old board game from the box. The idea was to sort the usable ones from those better donated to charity. Entdecker wasn't so bad; it was essentially a dumbed-down version of Carcasson. Mississippi Queen was a game where you race paddle wheel ships along a river, but it wasn't such a hit. Finally, Megalon was just dull. You moved your mage pieces across a board to three different locations with very little strategy, culminating in a last-moment effort to block whoever is winning. Some games just don't work.

Cross country skiing in Einsiedeln
Cross country skiing in Einsiedeln

The next day you all went to Einsiedeln. You have ended up in Einsieden on quite a few weekends lately for crosscountry skiing. It's the staple go-to loipe (cross-country track). The weather conditions were ok, perhaps al little foggy, but the fresh snow made skating hard. The unprepared loipe slowed you down too much to really get into a skating rhythm. You did the 15km loop and came back tired. Nice outing anyway.